With Boris Johnson successfully getting Brexit over the line and Donald Trump, so far at least, not pressing the big red button under his desk at the White House that triggers World War III, we can relax and turn our attention elsewhere.
Regular readers of this column will know that I have a sideline passion for horse racing, and right now we find ourselves a month or so shy of certainly the biggest and arguably the best race meeting in the UK and Ireland: the Cheltenham Festival.
Taking place in that otherwise sleepy market town on March 10-13, the festival brings together many of the world’s finest horses to compete for huge cash prizes in their chosen discipline, be it sprinting, hurdling, chasing or staying (the equivalent of marathon running, to you or I).
Even if you’re not a huge horse racing yourself, it is practically impossible to miss the festival when it’s on because everyone is talking about it – even Julie in accounts will be telling you about the fiver each way she’s had on the Gold Cup.
I’m not an expert or a pundit by any means, but if you are looking to get a headstart on Julie and everyone else with your Cheltenham Festival bets, there might just be some value in taking a look at the five horses listed below.
Notebook (Arkle Chase)
Coming from the legendary Gigginstown Stud, Notebook is on a run of four straight wins with the last three of those coming in high-quality Class 1 races.
Most notable are the identities of the horses he has beaten when scanning the betting market for the Arkle, for which Notebook is the favourite.
The seven-year-old has already defeated Fakir Doudairies (second favourite for the Arkle) and Cash Back (third favourite) in outings this season, as well as some other decent campaigners in the likes of Melon, Bapaume and Laurina.
A solitary run at the festival revealed nothing of interest, but Notebook has clearly kicked on in the past year or so and is a versatile horse with victories on all types of grounds.
A win would be a fantastic way to kick off day one of the festival!
Benie Des Dieux (Mares’ Hurdle/Champion Hurdle)
Willie Mullins’ horses are well coveted at the Cheltenham Festival, and chief among his stable of stars is Benie Des Dieux.
The nine-year-old caused much consternation when he fell at last year’s edition of the festival, but we shouldn’t look too deeply into that given that she has won at Cheltenham before: the Mares’ Hurdle of 2018, to be precise.
She may well go in the Mares’ Hurdle again in 2020, but whispers have suggested that a tilt at the Champion Hurdle is also a possibility. To be honest, she’s so good, I’d be backing her in either race.
Benie Des Dieux made her first start of the campaign in January at the Galmoy Hurdle, and she was already back to her supreme best. She’ll take some stopping at the festival.
Faugheen (Marsh Novices’ Chase)
This is a selection that comes with caveats: there is no guarantee that Faugheen will run in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, as there are other potential entries to consider.
But if he does, this veteran will surely take some stopping in his maiden campaign as a chaser.
Once rated the best two-miler in the game over hurdles, signs of age were beginning to show in some of Faugheen’s outings last season.
A switch to the bigger obstacles has clearly helped, because he’s already beaten the much-vaunted Samcro this season and won the Flogas Novice Chase, a classy Grade 1 affair.
In this Marsh Novices’ Chase heat there will be horses not fit to lace his boots (you know what I mean), and victory here would be a remarkable career turnaround.
Maybe you can teach an old dog/horse new tricks.
Paisley Park (Stayers’ Hurdle)
It’s always good to back horses with proven Cheltenham pedigree at the festival.
And given that Paisley Park has won on each of his last three visits to Prestbury Park, he certainly gets a big tick in that box.
Emma Lavelle’s horse won this Stayers’ Hurdle in fairly comfortable fashion 12 months ago, and that victory was sandwiched in-between two other triumphs on the Cheltenham turf: both in the Cleeve Hurdle.
His most recent success in that race came in January, where he was driven home and appeared to have another gear to go into. That bodes very nicely indeed!
Tiger Roll (Cross Country Chase)
Even fair weather racing fans have heard of Tiger Roll.
This horse, owned by the O’Leary brothers, will attempt to make history in 2020 by being the first horse to win three consecutive Grand National titles.
Ahead of each victory at Aintree he has enjoyed a run-out at the Cheltenham Festival, and on both occasions he has won this race: last year, Tiger Roll won the Cross Country Chase by some 22 lengths.
If he turns up in that form at this year’s festival, he will once again take some stopping!